As Trump Hesitates on a Potential Iran Strike, His Administration Draws Up Plans

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

There’s good news and bad news for Americans who want to avoid a catastrophic conflict with the world’s eighth-largest army. Lowering the blood pressure of pacifists everywhere, Trump reportedly isn’t interested in a strike on Iran following an attack on a Saudi oil facility that may still potentially put a major dent in the market. (U.S. officials believe Tehran is behind the drone strike.) Bringing that same blood pressure back to Cheney-ian levels of hypertension, NBC News reports that the administration is preparing possible sites for retaliatory strikes or cyberattacks, just in case the president leans toward action:

In a national security meeting on Monday, U.S. military leaders provided President Donald Trump with a menu of possible actions against Iran. But the president, seeking a narrowly focused response that wouldn’t draw the U.S. into broader military conflict with Iran, asked for more options, people briefed on the meeting said …

In the wake of Sunday’s attack, U.S. military planners have revisited a long-identified list of potential Iranian targets that could constitute a proportional response. Those include a strike on Iran’s Abadan oil refinery, one of the world’s largest, or Kharg Island, Iran’s biggest oil export facility. Attacks on either location would significantly impede Iran’s ability to process and sell oil, which the Trump administration has already been working to restrict after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Other possibilities include hitting missile launch sites, bases or other assets belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite Iranian military unit blamed for much of Iran’s paramilitary operations against adversaries outside of the country.

Unlike the president’s claim on Monday that the U.S. military is essentially a mercenary force sold to the highest bidder on the Arabian peninsula, NBC reports that the administration is considering a plan in which the Saudi military would strike Iran, with U.S. forces staying at a proxy distance. To be clear, the report indicates that military action is not imminent and that “no decision has been made.” And even if the president decides to target Iran, he could revoke his decision, as he did in June, when Trump called off a retaliatory strike following the downing of an American drone while planes were in the air.

Despite the president’s “locked and loaded” posturing, it appears that he is still reluctant to directly engage Iran. In a report from Politico on Tuesday, Trump does not want military action, as it conflicts with his “campaign vows to reduce foreign entanglements.” But a campaign pledge has never stopped the president before; a more pressing matter he is considering involves a possible recession caused by an Iran conflict hurting his chances at reelection.

On Monday afternoon, Trump mused: “Do I want war? I don’t want war with anybody. I’m somebody that would like not to have war.” Thankfully, most Americans agree: In a Gallup poll from August, 78 percent of citizens prefer “economic/diplomatic” measures to military ones. At the same time, Trump — ever the mixed messenger — said Monday that “we’re prepared more than anybody.”

As Trump Hesitates on Iran Strike, His Admin Draws Up Plans